Local food banks see 16 percent jump in assistance requests

Local food banks have seen a 16.4 percent jump in requests for assistance compared to last year, and 43.9 percent over the past two years, according to a report released today by the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

"Hundreds of thousands of families in Los Angeles County, including many families who never imagined they would need food assistance, are either suffering from hunger or at risk of going hungry,'' said Michael Flood, president and chief executive officer of the food bank. "We're distributing more food to local pantries than ever before, yet it's still not enough to keep pace with the growing need in the community.''

According to the report, rising unemployment and the continued economic struggles across the country were key factors in the demand from food banks.

The report noted that in Los Angeles County, 655,100 people were unemployed as of July, and nearly 300,000 have been unemployed since late 2007.

According to interviews with people receiving assistance from food banks, other people who have jobs are working reduced hours.

"As this recession continues, we are seeing a record number of applications for the Food Stamp Program,'' said Jacob Aguilar, assistant director of program and policy for the county Department of Public Social Services. ``We are encouraging everyone that needs assistance and qualifies to apply for this federal benefit. We want to make sure that basic food needs are being met for as many families and individuals as possible.''

Los Angeles Regional Foodbank provides about 800,000 meals a week to 590 charitable agencies throughout the county.